A drug cartel has called on a rival gang to leave Guanajuato state and avoid "generating violence" during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Mexico next month, a government official told Efe on condition of anonymity.

Authorities have found 18 "narcomessages" in recent days in public places, with one of the messages referring to the upcoming papal visit to Guanajuato, which is in central Mexico.

The message addressed to the Nueva Generacion, or Jalisco Nueva Generacion, gang from the Los Caballeros Templarios cartel mentioned the pope's visit.

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Neither gang, however, is based in Guanajuato, a state that has largely been spared the drug-related violence that has ravaged other parts of Mexico.

Los Caballeros Templarios warned Nueva Generacion that "confrontations will be inevitable" and told its rivals to leave "Guanajuato in peace."

"So don't think about getting close and even less so of generating violence at a time when His Holiness Benedict XVI is coming. You have been warned, meddlers," the source said, reading the message found on a bedsheet that was seized by police.

The bedsheet was found Monday in Leon, the city where Benedict XVI will stay during his March 23-26 visit to Mexico, the source told Efe.

The other messages were found in Irapuato, Celaya, San Miguel de Allende, Villagran, Valle de Santiago, Uriangato, Salvatierra and Yuriria.

Leon Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago had called on organized crime groups on Jan. 22 to ensure there was peace during Benedict XVI's visit.

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"To those who do evil, if my word reaches them in some way, tell them to take into account that the time we are going to experience is one of peace and grace," the archbishop said.

It is not known, however, if the Caballeros Templarios' desire for peace in Guanajuato means the gang has accepted the Catholic Church's call for a cease-fire or the move is unrelated.

Los Caballeros Templarios was created in March 2011 by former members of the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel.

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Police have seized tunics with red crosses on them from Caballeros Templarios members, as well as pamphlets inspired by the Crusades.

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La Familia Michoacana, which specializes in smuggling synthetic drugs into the United States, also uses religious symbolism and refers to the killings it commits as "divine justice."

Pope Benedict is scheduled to stay at Leon's Colegio Miraflores during his visit to Mexico.

Benedict XVI will celebrate an open-air Mass in the morning on March 25 at Silao's Guanajuato Bicentenario Park, an outdoor venue that it is expected will accommodate about 750,000 people, who will need a ticket to enter, officials said.

Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit three cities in Guanajuato state during his time in Mexico and will continue on to Santiago, Cuba.

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